What is sacred to you? Are there actions, behaviors, or things that you categorize as sacred and untouchable?
Things that people find sacred include marriage vows, children, sabbath practices, the language we use when we speak of God…we can attach holiness to any number of things. When we hold something as “sacred” we indicate its value and the prominence it takes in our lives.
The temple in Jerusalem was sacred to Jesus. It was his father’s house. It was a house of worship. It was a place where God resided. It was not to be violated or used for any other purpose than the worship of God.
John 2 (Contemporary English Version)
13 Not long before the Jewish festival of Passover, Jesus went to Jerusalem. 14 There he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves in the temple. He also saw moneychangers sitting at their tables. 15 So he took some rope and made a whip. Then he chased everyone out of the temple, together with their sheep and cattle. He turned over the tables of the moneychangers and scattered their coins.
16 Jesus said to the people who had been selling doves, “Get those doves out of here! Don’t make my Father’s house a marketplace.”
I remember a story that a former colleague once told of watching someone violate the sanctity of his church. It was at the end of a wedding, when people were still milling around the sanctuary waiting for pictures to be taken. (As a side note, I must confess that pastors often struggle with weddings and how they can become mere commercial venues for folks who have no notion of the sacredness of the space.) Such was the case that day, and my friend watched in horror as the father of the bride strode up the steps to the altar and lit a cigarette from the Christ candle. I haven’t seen this friend for over a decade, but I bet he still tells that story with the same sense of revulsion he felt when he observed it the first time.
Jesus felt the same revulsion at the loan sharks and money changers who charged exorbitant rates to lend money to people so they could buy overpriced animals for slaughter in the house that he loved. His actions that day remind us that we don’t have to put up with such violations in our sacred spots, whether they are physical locations or places in our hearts and minds. If someone is violating your spirit with their inappropriate words or behavior, throw them out of your life.
17 The disciples then remembered that the Scriptures say, “My love for your house burns in me like a fire.”
18 The Jewish leaders asked Jesus, “What miracle will you work to show us why you have done this?”
19 “Destroy this temple,” Jesus answered, “and in three days I will build it again!”
20 The leaders replied, “It took forty-six years to build this temple. What makes you think you can rebuild it in three days?”
21 But Jesus was talking about his body as a temple. 22 And when he was raised from death, his disciples remembered what he had told them. Then they believed the Scriptures and the words of Jesus.
This last part reminds us that even in his zeal to rid the temple of the merchants, Jesus ultimately acknowledges that he is the true temple. He is our church. He is our sacristy. He is our altar. Even after a temporary tear-down, he was rebuilt and raised from the dead. His words and his sacredness can never be defiled!
No matter what we build with our hands, the House of Jesus lasts forever.